Medically relevant assays with a simple smartphone and tablet based fluorescence detection system

Sensors (Basel). 2015 May 20;15(5):11653-64. doi: 10.3390/s150511653.


Cell phones and smart phones can be reconfigured as biomedical sensor devices but this requires specialized add-ons. In this paper we present a simple cell phone-based portable bioassay platform, which can be used with fluorescent assays in solution. The system consists of a tablet, a polarizer, a smart phone (camera) and a box that provides dark readout conditions. The assay in a well plate is placed on the tablet screen acting as an excitation source. A polarizer on top of the well plate separates excitation light from assay fluorescence emission enabling assay readout with a smartphone camera. The assay result is obtained by analysing the intensity of image pixels in an appropriate colour channel. With this device we carried out two assays, for collagenase and trypsin using fluorescein as the detected fluorophore. The results of collagenase assay with the lowest measured concentration of 3.75 µg/mL and 0.938 µg in total in the sample were comparable to those obtained by a microplate reader. The lowest measured amount of trypsin was 930 pg, which is comparable to the low detection limit of 400 pg for this assay obtained in a microplate reader. The device is sensitive enough to be used in point-of-care medical diagnostics of clinically relevant conditions, including arthritis, cystic fibrosis and acute pancreatitis.

Keywords: clinical assays; collagenase; fluorescence; polarization; smart phone; trypsin.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Biological Assay / instrumentation*
  • Biological Assay / methods
  • Cell Phone*
  • Collagenases
  • Fluorescein / analysis
  • Fluorescent Dyes / analysis*
  • Fluorometry / instrumentation*
  • Fluorometry / methods
  • Image Processing, Computer-Assisted / instrumentation*
  • Limit of Detection
  • Trypsin


  • Fluorescent Dyes
  • Trypsin
  • Collagenases
  • Fluorescein